Top 3 global death causes in last 23 years-diarrhea, heart diseases & maternal mortality: Lancet & WHO

HIV-AIDS that ravaged Sub-Saharan Africa is on the decline; while heart related diseases and cancer is on the rise in high income countries. Diarrhea, respiratory infections and communicable diseases devastated many low income regions; suicidal self-harm and maternal disorders were significantly present across all regions. 19 % of global deaths reported from India.

These are some of the findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 (GBD), a massive WHO data project which estimated yearly deaths for 188 countries between 1990 and 2013; but included data from 1950 onwards but not reported. The Study funded by the Gates Foundation was reported in December 2014 in The Lancet (Access the study and download data here). While most regions had recorded data, Somalia did not have any data and surprisingly there was poor data available from Laos.

 Life_probabilityClick for data visualization on life expectancy and chances of death

The number and age standardisation deaths caused by communicable causes fell whereas it increased for non-communicable diseases and injuries. The number for injury related death increased by 10.7%, from 4.3 million deaths in 1990 to 4.8 million in 2013. Transport injuries was an important made an important cause, especially among men across all countries. In terms of child mortality, diarrhoeal diseases, lower respiratory infections, neonatal causes, and malaria continue to causes of death in children younger than 5 years.


2013_deaths        Number in millions, top cause of deaths in 2013

HIV/AIDS is a major cause of death in South East Asia and South Asia but it does not receive the attention it requires. Mental disorders and drug abuse were important causes in North America while suicides reduced life expectancy in South Asia and China, from where farmer suicides are frequently reported. Cirrhosis related to liver diseases is reported as a major cause in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where many countries deal with the problem of alcoholism. Cervical cancer was a major reason followed by breast cancer in eight countries of Latin America and Caribbean. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis contributed considerably for many women’s death.

This study can provide critical inputs in the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) process. Numerous ambitious goals have been discussed such as the elimination of preventable child and maternal mortality in a generation. The Lancet Commission on Global Health 2035, that pushes for investment in health claimed that a grand convergence in health is achievable between the poorer and richer countries by 2035.

SixDegrees will soon interpret more data and report on the GBD 2013 as part of its effort to interpret and report on major global studies and data under its Series category.